How 90 days on Twitter can transform your business or career

I’m going to give you business advice, not Twitter advice.

Although Edelman regularly lists @TweetSmarter as one of the top twenty most influential accounts in the world, and Klout selected me as one of the first two people inducted into its Klout Stars program,  my greater knowledge is really in business and marketing. A brief look at my background before I ever heard of social media—I have:

  1. Set sales records for the last four business I consulted with. (The business categories were events, publishing, retail and direct sales.) Example: increased sales from $87,000 to over $200,000 in 15 days for one client, sales which then stayed at the higher level and were rolled out to other locations;
  2. Created a variety of award-winning sales training, merchandising, advertising and marketing programs, including one for the front cover of Publisher’s Weekly, and another in a retail test store which was then rolled out successfully to a chain of 50 stores;
  3. Managed as many as 50 employees.

Don’t succeed at Twitter; succeed in your business or career

Businesses always have the same problem: they overlook lots of “low-hanging fruit”—the things that will pay the greatest benefit in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort at the lowest cost.

Because there are usually so many things a business can do to improve, I can confidently say Twitter will rarely if ever be the single most important thing you can do for your business today.

This is not an attempt to be contrarian or use reverse psychology on you. However, starting with a very, very tiny investment of time, over 90 days Twitter can act like an efficiency program, bringing large gains to your business that you never expected to find. Invest in Twitter and over time, it CAN be the most important thing you can do for your business.

Whether you are already on Twitter or not, I’m going to assume you aren’t sure how to use it or what good it could be for you or your business for the purpose of this article. And while every person and business is different, I’m going to give generic advice, pointing out here and there where you might find differences for your particular situation.

From here on out I’ll speak to business owners/managers, but the advice is mostly the same for advancing your career, whether in business, academia, government, the non-profit sector, etc. (Skip anything you feel doesn’t apply to your situation.)

Business (career) basics first; Internet basics second; Twitter third

Are you prepared for success?

Do you know what your core competencies are—what you do best? Do you feel way in over your head in your current situation? You need to get a handle on your present situation before you add something new to your plate. (However, here are some links on using Twitter for job searching to get you started if that is your current situation.)

While Twitter can help you in every area, you’re never going to be able to use it well if you don’t have a good handle on your current situation. I’m just being practical here. Don’t make Twitter “one more thing” if you’re already overwhelmed, confused or in over your head.

Internet basics

People should be able to find your business easily via the internet, and have a reasonably good impression of your business upon initially finding you (even if you don’t have a good follow up system set up).

To achieve that, every business should have a website that the business owner knows how to update the phone number on. One of your best free choices in that regard would be WordPress. Your business should be listed in Google’s and Yahoo’s free business directories. You should have a Facebook page that uses design elements from your website and links to it.

All this does is make you findable, in the sense that the internet is a giant Yellow Pages and you want to have a decent listing in it.

If you haven’t done these things already, you should probably skip Twitter for now. The exception would be if you are a good networker, direct salesperson, or significantly above average in internet-savvy. In that case you can choose option one below immediately.

Your initial Twitter options

NEITHER of these options represents any real time commitment on your part. I’m not setting you up for something before you know what is involved. You can start with 15 minutes a week and go up or down from there. Obviously, a small time investment will only produce small results, but I just want to point out it’s easy to start small :)

Option 1 of 2: Create a personal, not business, Twitter account. The username should be some variation of your name, and link to your website. You can change this to a business-named Twitter account later if it makes sense to. The bio should be something like  “Owner of [business name], father, sports fan.” In other words, some combination of business and personal. Click the box when filling out the form on Twitter to receive messages from Twitter so that communication on Twitter will come to your email address. That’s right, you can use Twitter almost completely via email at first. Not too hard :)

Option 2 of 2: Not recommended. Create a business Twitter account that uses design elements from your website and links to it. I’ll explain further down why NOT to do this, and if you still want to, how you should go about it. However, if your business already has a budget for new media and is fairly active on Facebook, making Twitter a mirror of what you’re doing on Facebook initially is okay. Let your Facebook activity drive your Twitter activity.

Facebook is much easier to “get” than Twitter—not that it’s necessarily going to do much for your business. I don’t mean that as a knock against Facebook—it’s an essential part of any new media plan. But it’s never going to be as beneficial for your business and your career as Twitter can be.

(Of course, there are really many ways to start with Twitter. I’m oversimplifying so that I can touch on just the most important points here.)

Achieve business or career success first. Learn how to do “business on Twitter” later.

Your goal is to find ways to transform your business or career in 90 days. To do this, you’re going to connect with some of the most successful owners of  businesses like yours in the world, people who understand your problems and opportunities intimately from long, hard personal experience in a business like yours. They’re going to help find other people to connect with to help your business. Yes, this is networking, but not your Daddy’s networking! Twitter is rocket-propelled networking on steroids. And it will lead you to much more than just networking. Networking is the starting point.

At some point in this initial effort, you’re going to start getting incredibly fired up by hearing stories from how people have solved business problems just like yours, and developed ways to succeed you had never thought of before. Twitter is going to become critical to your business, because it’s going to be your lifeline to some of the finest, most practical, wise and helpful people for your business (or career).

Creating your network

This is called developing a personal learning network (PLN). Do this properly and it will not only change your business or career, it will change your life. It has for people around the world, why not for you?

There are three stages that overlap:

  1. Find people you can help, while keeping an eye out for making good connections. First 45 days.
  2. Make good connections, then great connections, then mind-blowingly awesome connections. Keep helping people. First 60 days.
  3. Apply the advice you get to your business, and share what you’ve learned (return to step 1). Keep helping people and making connections. Last 30 days.

Along the way, you will have learned a little about everything of what makes Twitter great. If you want a quick peek at some of that, take a look at ‘I’m showing two colleagues Twitter. They say they don’t get it…’

Also, at the same time you will have put your business on the Twitter map. You’ll be a solid, helpful member of the Twitter community, with many of the benefits that entails for your business, career and more.

It’s still too soon to be doing “business on Twitter.” Keep waiting!

A word of advice: Don’t start trying to “work Twitter for your business.” You’ll hear a ton about how to do that as you go along. Tweeting blog posts from your website, holding contests, linking up with Foursquare, etc., etc., etc. Don’t be distracted from your goal: get great advice and assistance for your business/career as it exists today. Only after your Twitter connections have transformed your business should you consider “doing business on Twitter.”

Why do I keep saying “Wait?”

  1. Trying to do “business on Twitter” is more likely to waste your time than not; your time is too valuable for that.
  2. There are things that appear useful to do on Twitter but in reality will do little to impact the bottom line of your business.
  3. It’s very, very easy to make mistakes and do things wrong on Twitter when using it for business.

But if you start with the PLN (personal learning network)/networking approach, a side effect will be becoming intimately familiar with Twitter. You will receive incredible advice on how to do “business on Twitter” along the way.

What about “option 2?”

If you don’t want to take this advice, and want to set up an account with your business name and post a few links to it over time, fine.

Ever bought a book that you never read? It will be like that. Twitter will end up like all those other things you meant to follow through on one day. I would advise putting your time into your website or Facebook instead of this option.

How about exact steps? What would an action plan look like?

Good question, if you’ve been thinking that! While I’ve laid out a series of steps, it’s been light on clear actions so far.

There’s a reason for that: You should use Twitter (or network with helpful friends) to get advice on what to do next. If you are enough of a “doer” that you can set up Twitter (8 minutes) and send a Tweet to @TweetSmarter asking for help (30 seconds), you’re ready for the next step, and I’ll help you (and provide more resources and specific steps).

If not, enjoy life on the sidelines while the most transformational business revolution in history passes you by.

See you on Twitter!

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